Julia Child's tarte tatin
Has anyone out there made the Tarte Tatin recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"? Instead of laying rounded ends of apples down into caramelized butter and sugar, she cuts the apples thinly and layers the slices three deep with butter and sugar, in a cold baking dish. All the cooking is done in the oven. It sounds much less fussy than the ones where you arrange the apples rounded-side down on the hot caramel--in fact she says the tart "presents a lovely mass of caramelized apples." Any thoughts?
the thin apple slices really speed things along. my experience has been that when it's completely baked in the oven starting with a cold pan, a cast iron skillet works best. the apples brown nicely and create a rich apple/butter/sugar mixture (which later becomes the top of the tarte). the downside is that you can't monitor the apples' progress very well in the heavy black pan. lifting with a spatula & peeking underneath is your best bet with this method. a clear pyrex dish (as recommended in the recipe) makes the process easier to watch, but the apple mixture takes longer to do *its thing*, and the top pastry inevitably needs to be protected with foil to stop over-browning.
btw the recipe for tarte aux pommes is also wonderful. i love the concentrated flavor of the apple sauce against the jagged texture of the apple slices-best of both worlds.
I've made tarte tatin both ways (stovetop/oven and oven-only) and I absolutely prefer the style of caramelizing the apples on the stovetop and finishing with the pastry in the oven. You get a much richer product 'cause a lot of the liquid gets boiled down. I cut the apples into eighths; bigger than that and they still retain too much liquid. Worth the trouble, in my opinion. Yum!
You may want to consult her later books because I am certain the recipe that I have of hers has you make the caramel in a hot cast iron pan and then add the sliced apples. You baste them for a bit, put on the crust and then put in the oven. I have made it on several occasions (as have my sisters) and it is one of our favorite dishes.
I've never followed JC's exact directions, but I occasionally make tarte tarin and usually slice the apples instead of leaving them in halves or wedges. You obviously lose the shape of the fruit, but as Julia says it's still attractive and the flavors are more evenly distributed. Make sure to use a firm apple so that it doesn't just turn to mush.